After a North Korean ballistic missile test Saturday, President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrambled to assess the situation within view of diners at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, where they were having dinner.
Aides surrounded the two leaders and shined mobile phone flashlights on documents to better see them on an outdoor terrace. The situation broke out while Trump was at the private Palm Beach, Florida, property near other diners, many of whom are paying members of the club, which Trump still owns.
After conferring, Trump and Abe later held a joint news conference responding to the missile test. CNN first reported that the response to the missile test in front of other diners at Mar-a-Lago.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer later said that Trump was briefed in an enclosed space and the discussions in the open were only about press conference logistics.
One club member, Richard DeAgazio, posted photos of Trump on Facebook, saying in one caption that he saw the president “receiving the news about the missile incident” with Abe sitting next to him, according to The Washington Post. DeAgazio’s Facebook entries about the night were briefly unavailable after he spoke with the Post, but the photos reappeared shortly after, but without captions.
According to the Post, another caption read: “It was fascinating to watch the flurry of activity at dinner when the news came that North Korea had launched a missile in the direction of Japan. The Prime Minister Abe of Japan huddles with his staff and the President is on the phone with Washington DC. the two world leaders then conferred and then went into another room for hastily arranged press conference. Wow…..the center of the action!!!”
DeAgazio also reportedly posted a picture of the man he said carries the so-called nuclear football, the briefcase that allows the president to carry out a nuclear launch.
The incident has prompted fresh security concerns due to Trump’s penchant for spending weekends at the club, which administration aides have dubbed the “winter White House.” The White House has more stringent security standards than Mar-a-Lago, and the proximity that diners had to Trump and Abe raises questions about what they could have seen or heard.
The club recently doubled its membership initiation fee to $200,000 from $100,000.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.